Sniping and other high-risk smoking practices among homeless youth

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Sep 1:154:105-10. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.06.036. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


Background: This study of homeless youth uses quantitative data to estimate the prevalence of high-risk smoking practices (obtaining or using cigarettes in a way that increase exposure to toxins and/or susceptibility to infectious diseases) and identify characteristics associated in particular with sniping (smoking discarded cigarettes), and qualitative data to describe why and how homeless youth engage in sniping.

Methods: A probability sample of 292 homeless youth smokers in Los Angeles County completed a self-administered survey, and a separate convenience sample of 27 homeless youth who were lifetime smokers participated in focus groups. Survey participants reported on background characteristics, smoking cognitions, and high-risk smoking practices. Focus group participants described how they obtained cigarettes and responses relevant to sniping were coded.

Results: Survey results indicated that nearly all youth engaged in at least one high-risk smoking practice, with three-quarters having sniped cigarettes in the past 30 days. Sniping was more frequent among youth with less negative smoking attitudes (b=-0.29, 95% CI=-0.55 to -0.04, p=0.02), greater nicotine dependence (b=0.11, 95% CI=0.00 to 0.23, p=0.046), lower income (b=-0.05, 95% CI=-0.09 to -0.01, p=0.02), and more severe drug abuse (b=0.15, 95% CI=0.04, 0.26, p=0.01). Focus groups data indicated that youth snipe because it provides cheap and easy access to tobacco, and use specific strategies to mitigate the perceived health risks of sniping.

Conclusions: Sniping and other high-risk smoking practices deserve further attention among homeless youth, particularly those already facing greater health threats due to factors such as nicotine dependence, lower income, and drug abuse.

Keywords: Homeless; Smoking; Sniping; Youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • California / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Homeless Youth / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Report
  • Smoking / epidemiology*